Mill Creek Entertainment // 2007 // 99 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Michael Rubino (Retired) // August 15th, 2011
"Whoever has the money has the power."
In case you missed the 2007 indie bank robbery movie, The Lookout, the first couple of times it's been released, you've been given a second chance thanks to the double-dipping powers of Blu-ray.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception) plays Chris Pratt, a once popular high school hockey star whose life is derailed by a brain-damaging car wreck. Four years later and he's still trying to re-order his life: he has to write down his daily activities so he doesn't forget them; lives with his blind friend, Lewis (Jeff Daniels, The Squid and the Whale); and buffs floors at a small town farmer's bank.
That last part's important.
Chris, adrift in a bar one night, is approached by an old schoolmate, Gary (Matthew Goode, Match Point). Soon enough, he's immersed in a new group of friends and given a chance at a better life. All he has to do is help them rob a bank.
The Lookout is more than just a well-made heist flick. It's simultaneously a vehicle for then-up-and-coming star Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who, prior to this had only done a few indie films since his days on Third Rock), and a showcase for the cinematic vision of screenwriter/director Scott Frank (Get Shorty). It succeeds in both instances.
At the center of the film is the fully-realized portrayal of Chris Pratt, a character suffering from short-term memory loss and brain damage. Levitt wisely doesn't over emphasize his Pratt's health problems; by design, they're quiet and subtle but always lurking. He'll drop a spoon or lock the keys in his car, but carries on anyways...because that's how it works in the real world. Rather than making his injury a crutch for the spotlight to focus on, Levitt uses it as a tool for motivation and emotion. He makes us care about his struggle, his past life, and his questionable decision to befriend a group of thieves. As such, the heist itself is secondary to Pratt's development as a character. It's a heist film by classification, but deeper than that upon inspection.
Since The Lookout isn't relying on the heist itself, the plan isn't terribly complex -- after all, they're just robbing a small town farm bank. That doesn't make the thieves any less intimidating or persuasive. Goode plays Gary with the kind of dangerous likability that is understandably attractive to the outcast Pratt. The fact that no real alarms go off when Chris meets the rest of the crew, including the silent creeper, Bone (Greg Dunham), could be chalked up to his desperate need for acceptance. Until now, Chris's only real friend is his sarcastic, blind roommate, Lewis. Like Levitt, Jeff Daniels approached his impaired character with total believability and understated seriousness. He functions to the extent any true blind person would, eschewing melodramatic stereotypes usually found in this sort of genre picture.
In the end, The Lookout works because it sidesteps expectations. The robbery itself doesn't disappoint, but it's also very clear that this is a heist movie where the characters are more important than the plan. Scott Frank's smart, well-written screenplay and serviceable first-time direction provides the film with depth and nuance while keeping the suspense at a boil.
The Blu-ray release is a decent, largely pointless, double dip. The high definition transfer is grainy, with good color reproduction and no noticeable artifacts. This the second or third time the film has been released on Blu-ray, so the transfer is likely the same as previous iterations. The standard Dolby Digital Surround track is fine, although the dialogue occasionally dipped too low. The special features, again, are identical to previous releases: two featurettes and a commentary track with Scott Frank and director of photography Alar Kivilo.
I realize that The Lookout is purely a double dip of the 2007 Blu-ray and standard definition releases of the film, but if you have yet to catch this tense, well-crafted character study/heist flick, do yourself a favor and pick this up.
Guilty of double dipping. Not guilty on all other counts.
Review content copyright © 2011 Michael Rubino; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R